Religions in their current form appear to live behind thinly held veils of religious tolerance, which once removed show a distinct desire to OWN god.
In a case in America in early 2016, University professor Laryica Hawkins reached an agreement to stand down from her tenured position. This decision came after the Catholic University she worked for suspended her and tried to have her removed for wearing a hijab as an expression of inter-faith unity. Her reason for doing so was that she felt that Muslims and Catholics are people of the same book; that in effect they worship the same god.
This notion that Muslims and Catholics might share the same foundation was so abhorrent to the University that something had to be done: not to support this message of brotherhood but to show that this is a message not suited to the religious ethos of that campus.
This is not a ‘pick on Catholics’ article because the same can be said for sections of the Jewish faith that suggest there is an inherent difference between the soul of the Jew and non-Jew.
There are similar sentiments in the Koran and I am sure if we look further afield we would begin to see a concerning trait that underneath the outward statements of tolerance, lies a sentiment that condemns or makes less those that don’t believe.
After all, you do not see missionaries in all their forms going out to promote other peoples’ religions. If anything the key message appears to be, "ours is better". It would seem that affiliation to a certain religion has been turned into the ultimate and original loyalty card program. Shop with us and we will make you a ‘Gold class’ shopper, no queues, no waiting in grotty departure lounges, just a seat up the front of the plane.
Regardless of our theological interpretation of god, it would seem incongruent that we equate the ‘being of all beings’, ‘the lord’, ‘Allah”, with such a petty trait as playing favourites. It is hard to reconcile the fact that there is a being that holds a kingdom of love, wisdom, compassion and light for only some of his children.
There is something so close to truth that modern religions offer, with all the right words yet very little congruent follow through.
What if religion promoted curiosity instead of defensiveness or even tolerance? What if there was an excited murmur between people of different faiths all exploring different aspects to find out what elements of any given approach deliver the most joy, the most harmony between people, the most vitality in the body.
Vitality in the body is the key, because mentally we can all justify many things, yet a body vital, alive, full of love and open to others is something that cannot be faked.
Imagine the end result if over time we dropped the things that didn’t work and only progressed what could be proven and repeated in their body… we would move away from the need for faith altogether because it would be a lived and very real experience. **Many religions say in one way or another ‘the kingdom of god is inside you’ – maybe this is something they are right about.**
But without this approach we buy the frequent flyer programs because there is little else to choose from.
Could it be that people like Laryica Hawkins are a growing part of the realisation that love is innate and not owned or contained by a certain belief system or way of thinking?
Are we brave enough to separate out the love that is innate from the institutions that seek to own it?
Are we willing as one humanity to come together and share what we live, day to day, and put that to the test in terms of the level of vitality, joy and openness to others it delivers?
If we truly cared about each other we would sign up for this conversation in a heartbeat.